The art of politics: Painting a picture of the 2017 election

Paula Bennett's scream, and the original by Edvard Munch.
Paula Bennett's scream, and the original by Edvard Munch. Photo credit: File

Politics can be bleak. It can be frustrating. It can be cray. Donald Trump. Brexit. Jacinda Ardern being asked about babies. Need I say more?

In the midst of all this, the internet can also provide a ray of joy. Most political parody or satire accounts are objectively terrible, but once an election cycle at least one brave, anonymous nerd steps up and brings hope to a tired nation.

In 2014 it was @neetflux - gone too soon - who photoshopped New Zealand politicians into classic movie posters.

This time around it's @NZAHparallels.

The concept is simple, but hilarious: New Zealand politics photos juxtaposed with classic artworks.

It began on July 31. For four days so far, my colleagues and I would show each other the tweets and laugh. Oh how we laughed. Who is this anonymous genius, I wondered.

I looked through @NZAHparallel's tweets and followers, searching for clues. I steeled myself for a long and difficult investigation. It would take all of my journalistic powers. They direct messaged me within minutes of my pleading, butt-kissing tweet. I asked them for an interview and they agreed.

They have asked to remain anonymous. Here is what @NZAHparallel had to say.

Who even are you?

I am an Auckland person who wants to spread some art history joy throughout Twitter.

What's your background in art history?

My background in art history is that I have a post-graduate degree.

What inspired you to start this account?

A friend suggested I do it after we both noticed the @tabloidarthistory account and how hilarious it was. We thought it would be great to pair New Zealand examples with art, but it has evolved more into politics given it's election time - it's ripe for laughter.

How closely do you follow politics?

I follow politics fairly closely. I have reckons, but I'm no pundit.

What's your favourite artwork, and are you waiting for the right photo to pair it with?

I love Giotto and Piero della Francesca, and I am completely confident that a chance to match them to some backbencher will eventuate.

You've got almost 1000 followers in a couple of days - are you surprised by the response?

I'm completely surprised. I made the account on Monday 31st July at 3:30pm and can't fathom the level of interest.

The artworks seem to have got progressively more modern, is that deliberate?

Yes it's deliberate, although my thing is the Renaissance, but it's not everyone's. Also, Steven Joyce lends himself more readily to Pop Art than any other art movement.

Which art movement do you think best describes where politics is at in New Zealand?

Maybe we are still at the regionalism phase. We're all huddled in our regions trying to pretend New Zealand is still this little provincial paradise.

I think we're potentially in a surrealist period, do you agree?

The surrealist period occurred during the 2014 elections; truly, I thought I had taken hallucinogens. I wish this account had been created back then, because I could have paired Julian Assange, Laila Harre and Kim Dotcom with some pretty abstract Juan Miro.

What art styles to you think represent New Zealand's political parties?

National will ultimately always be landscapes, Greek columns, still lifes and the odd nude. Labour and Greens would be more post-colonial art, the Māori Party would straddle traditional and contemporary Māori art-making practices and ACT would be "not knowing much about art, but knowing what they like".

What is it about Winston Peters that brought Damian Hurst's piece to mind?

Sharks live a very long time, they are incredibly thick-skinned, they can smell weakness, they circle, and they have amazing teeth just like Winston.

I'm concerned you're going to use up your ideas before the election. Can you last another seven weeks?

Well, yes but on days where there are no major political meltdowns or scandals, I can just dredge up the last election which would keep the account going for literally years.

What would you pair this with?

Lisa Owen and Andrew Little with a painting by Whanganui artist Mark Rayner.
Lisa Owen and Andrew Little with a painting by Whanganui artist Mark Rayner. Photo credit: Newshub.

Lol! Why, Andy Warhol's banana for The Velvet Underground & Nico album.

The Velvet Underground and Nico.
The Velvet Underground and Nico. Photo credit: Andy Warhol.